Feds to begin relocating hundreds of mountain goats from Olympics this summer, killing others

PORT ANGELES, Wash.  —The National Park Service said Tuesday it plans this summer to begin relocating hundreds of mountain goats from Olympic National Park to the North Cascades while killing others.

The agency said it finalized a plan to remove about 625 mountain goats that have long posed an ecological problem in the park. The fatal goring of a hiker by a goat in 2010 raised new concerns about public safety.

“We are very pleased to collaborate with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and U.S. Forest Service to relocate mountain goats from the Olympic Peninsula,” said Superintendent Sarah Creachbaum. “In turn, we support the state, the U.S. Forest Service, and area tribes to re-establish sustainable populations of goats in the Washington Cascades, where goats are native, and populations have been depleted.”

The decision calls for capturing and relocating mountain goats to North Cascade national forests, where the animals are native.

As many goats as possible will be moved by helicopter over several years. After the second year, park officials plan to shoot and kill goats when capturing isn't possible.

Nearly a dozen goats were introduced to the Olympic Mountains in the 1920s, in an apparent effort to establish a hunting population. Hunting was prohibited after the park was established in 1938. By 1983, however, the population numbers grew to more than 1,100.

In the 1980s, park officials used helicopters to capture and remove goats but that program ended over safety concerns to staff. More than 500 goats were removed during that decade.

In 1995, the park considered eliminating the goat population by shooting the animals from helicopters. That plan was later tabled.

A survey last year found that the goat population had more than doubled between 2004 and 2016. More than 600 goats now graze the park's alpine meadows and roam its rocky peaks.

Officials say the plan to relocate most of the goats and kill others will reduce environmental impacts and protect public safety.